Whether it's a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or strained muscles, it can take some time to diagnose and treat the causes of back pain. And all the while, you're trying to navigate health insurance, work and family life, and everyday stressors—all while dealing with your back pain.
This blog is written to highlight a few fairly simple things you can do to help achieve some level of comfort and pain relief.
See: Abdominal Exercises and Back Exercises - Getting Started
5 simple tips to help keep your spine as healthy as possible:
1. Let your spine really rest while sleeping.
While you're lying down, all the structures in your spine that have worked hard all day finally have an opportunity to relax and be rejuvenated. To make the most of this time, you need a mattress and pillows that allow your spine to rest in a supported and comfortable way.
Your choice of mattress and pillow is largely based on personal preference, your preferred sleep positions, and your specific back or neck problem.
As long as you're choosing a mattress to ensure the best support and sleeping position for your condition, there are many available types of mattress can be helpful.
2. Exercise your core to strengthen abs and back muscles.
Your core muscles—your lower back and abdominal muscles—need to be strong and supple in order to support your spine and take pressure off your lower back.
Unfortunately, for most of us our core muscles are rarely used during everyday activities; they need to be toned through specific, targeted exercises. These exercises are simple and can be performed in 20 to 30 minutes as part of a daily routine.
Read more: Core Body Strength Exercises
3. Your shoes need to support your spine.
Whether you're walking for exercise or just to get where you're going, the shoes you wear play an important role in supporting your lower back. Good shoes provide a supportive base that helps the spine and body remain in alignment. For example, make sure the area of the shoe that fits the back of your heels is snug, but not overly tight, as a good fit in the heel prevents over pronation or supination—or too much rolling of the foot to the outside or inside.
Read more: Guidelines for Buying Walking Shoes
Also, consider using shoe orthotics or inserts if you need further balance or support.
4. Enjoy the benefits of massage.
Did you know that massage has a number of therapeutic benefits in addition to general stress relief? A good massage will help increase endorphins—the body's natural painkiller—in your bloodstream, which in turn may allow you cut back on pain medications. Massage can also encourage blood flow, which in turn brings healing nutrients to the affected area and can speed healing.
While it's not the same as going to a massage therapist, having a massage chair in your home can be a practical and easy way to get some of the benefits of a shiatsu or Swedish massage.
5. Practice good ergonomics while sitting—and limit total sitting time.
The discs in your lower spine are loaded 3 times more while sitting than standing, so long periods of sitting can create or aggravate a painful back condition. Moreover, when sitting at a desk and/or looking at a computer screen, our natural tendency is to slouch and lean forward, stressing our lumbar discs even more.
It's also important to do whatever you can to avoid sitting for long periods. Get up to stretch and walk around every 20 to 30 minutes, try working at a standup desk for at least part of the day, or get up and pace around when talking on the phone. The spine is meant to move to stay healthy, and movement fuels the spine with healthy nutrients.
The topics covered here are simple ways to help support your spine and overall back health. Even when you are in serious pain and are undergoing extensive medical treatments, we encourage you try to remember the simple things you can do for your back—even small changes can help with the healing process over time.